Before College: Common Q & As About The Student Aid Application Process

At this time of year, many students and parents start wondering about financial aid applications they’ve filed. Here are 5-6 common questions, along with their answers.

Q. We have a middle-class income. Should we even bother to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for our son?

A. Yes, because:

  • Your student may get unexpected grant money. For example, Forbes Magazine recently reported that over 60% of students from families earning $100,000 or more per year qualify for grants;
  • The FAFSA is required to qualify for the lowest interest student loans; and
  • Scholarship committees sometimes use Expected Family Contributions (EFCs) generated by the FAFSA as tiebreakers when applicants are equally well-qualified for funds they award.

Q. I’m divorced. Which parent should report financial data on my daughter’s FAFSA?

A. The parent with whom she lived most in the last 12 months. If she didn’t live with either parent or divided her time equally between them during this period, it’s the parent who provided more financial support to her over the last 12 months. If the reporting parent has remarried, include stepparent data, too.

Q. I applied for several scholarships over the last 6 months. Shouldn’t I have heard something by now?

A. Not necessarily. Many scholarship providers lack the resources to acknowledge the receipt of applications, and they generally notify applicants who’ll receive their scholarships from February through May.

Q. How did they ever come up with our EFC? It’s so high!

A. Your reaction’s typical. But remember, the EFC is calculated assuming you’ll devote every possible penny from your income and assets to your student before other taxpayers start subsidizing his postsecondary costs.

However, the FAFSA doesn’t collect data about unusual situations — e.g. significant income losses or high uninsured medical bills. In these cases, ask the financial aid offices at schools of interest to your student about filing “special circumstance appeals” that may lower your EFC.

Q. We filed our FAFSA in October. When will schools send our son financial aid offers?

A. Schools send these offers to most newly admitted students from late February through April.

Q. A school that admitted our daughter wants to “verify” our FAFSA data. They won’t even consider her for financial aid until we send certain documents. Do they think we lied?

A. No. Americans file 20 million FAFSAs a year. If a small percentage of them make mistakes on their FAFSAs, millions of dollars could go to students who aren’t actually qualified. Therefore, Washington requires that schools use certain documents to verify potentially erroneous FAFSA data.

But don’t worry. A new study shows that verification doesn’t impact most financial aid awards. So we recommend you provide whatever the school’s requested ASAP.

Got questions about applying for financial aid? Contact College Affordability Solutions to get answers during free consultations.

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